(Tallahassee.com) - Gov. Rick Scott pledged Monday to review the number of tests being administered to Florida students and to take further steps to rein in the cost of college if he wins a second term in November.
But opponents said Scott — expected to face a tough re-election campaign against former Gov. Charlie Crist, the likely Democratic nominee — was trying to make up for his previous neglect of education in an election-year conversion.
Scott's gubernatorial office announced last week that he would propose the highest per-student funding for education on record, something else Democrats quickly dismissed as a gimmick.
But the documents released Monday by his campaign go further, listing sometimes-vague proposals on issues ranging from how frequently students are tested to the costs of instructional materials at colleges and universities.
"We want to make sure that our students have every opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in their careers, and we want to make sure our teachers have every tool they need to make that possible," Scott said.
The call for an investigation of standardized testing is noteworthy, given that Republicans interested in education reform have long looked at assessments as a way to judge how well schools are educating children. In 2011, Scott signed a bill that more closely tied teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests.
A brochure outlining Scott's proposals seemed to place the blame for the amount of testing on local school districts. "The state only requires students take the Florida Standards Assessment or specific end-of-course exams for high school courses," it says.
The "Florida Standards Assessment" is a new test that will replace the FCAT as the state moves to a revised version of the nationwide Common Core standards.
But Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of the advocacy group Fund Education Now, said blaming local school districts was disingenuous, because many of the tests they require are tied to state laws. Districts will have to create tests for some courses under the teacher-pay law that Scott signed, Oropeza said.
"I think the governor needs to look closely at the Florida Legislature, because they're the reason that we have so many standardized tests that have to be taken," she said.
On higher education, Scott said he would push for a requirement that colleges outline the costs of textbooks and other materials before students register for classes.
"Students have the right to know the total cost of their educational choices prior to registering for a course," Scott's platform says.
Similar legislation passed the House earlier this year but failed to make it to the Senate floor. Some faculty members expressed concern that the proposal could cause logistical problems, because registration for college classes sometimes takes place months before the semester begins, often before the universities knows which professor is going to teach which course.
In response to Scott's proposals, Democrat issued a broad-based attack on his record as governor. Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant highlighted previous cuts to education in budgets signed by Scott and his efforts to distance himself from Common Core.
"This is an election year gimmick, pure and simple," Tant said. "No modern governor has done more harm to Florida's public schools and colleges than Rick Scott."